Beacon Pride: Suburban Town Breeds Top Talent

Photo courtesy of Shayla Diaz

By David Cordova

Basketball in New York City is one thing that’s prevalent. There’s the talent in the city, Long Island, Westchester County and also upstate in places such as Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. The Empire State has plenty of places to showcase their hoops talent.

But one place that gets overlooked by many people is the town of Beacon, New York. A place that is 60 miles north of the city, it is located in Dutchess County. If one was to take a trip up there on the Metro North Hudson Line, they would see how different it is compared to the city life.

When you’re from a small town, you have a chip on your shoulder and you will do what you can to represent your city to the fullest. Beacon’s rising stars are Tyrese Williams, a senior at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, Malachi De Sousa, a senior at South Kent School in Kent, Connecticut and Elijah Hughes, who is a sophomore and will be redshirting at Syracuse University, and will have three years of basketball eligibility remaining.

“Beacon is real quiet, it’s like more unknown, so I like putting on for Beacon, so when people are like, ‘Where are you from?,’ I say, ‘Beacon.’ I like repping my city.” says Williams.

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Both De Sousa and Hughes were teammates at Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers, NY for a season in 2014-15. They even won a CHSAA “A” city title. (Photo courtesy of Shay’z Dayz)

When asked about the basketball scene in Beacon, he replied, “It’s like real laid back, it’s not really too much up there, like people that take ball serious, so when you get a dope group of friends that take ball serious, that’s when we start seeing the greatness that Beacon has. We’ve got a lot of unknown people that others don’t really know about.”

But rather than attend school in his area, he makes the hour and half train ride on the Metro North Line every day, which stops on the Yankees-153rd Street train station and leads to a walk up the hill to the school on 151st Street and Grand Concourse in the South Bronx.

When asked about playing in the city, Williams replied, “There’s a lot more competition, way more competitive, it just brings out the best in me.

The 6-foot-1 Williams is a guard that can score from anywhere on the floor. Last year, he scored 17 points per game for the Cardinals and helped make them one of the more dangerous teams in the CHSAA with Jontai Williams, Joe Toussaint and Terrance Reaves in the backcourt.

Hayes went 21-9 last season and shocked many by winning the CHSAA championship, 62-60, over Archbishop Molloy, which featured five-star prospects Cole Anthony and Moses Brown. They then ended up making it to the New York State Federation playoffs, but ended up losing to the PSAL champions and eventual state champions, Abraham Lincoln. But nonetheless, they managed to finish No. 2 in the state rankings amongst “AA” schools.

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Williams prepares to take a free throw at the Hype City League event for Cardinal Hayes. (Photo courtesy of Visions by Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong)

When asked about how he felt about that breakout season, Williams said, “I felt that we did good last year, being the underdog and winning the city, and I think this year,  we should get back to where we were last year. We basically got the same team again, we should be alright.”

At the present moment, Williams has mid-major offers from schools such as St. Bonaventure, Iona, Manhattan, Quinnipiac, St. Louis, Fordham, Towson and Vermont. But he says that he wants to improve on those offers. “I’m trying to up that and get more higher-major offers,” says Williams.

DeSousa, a 6-foot-6 forward, is another player from Beacon that stands out in the tri-state area. He plays a perimeter game and has a lot of athletic ability.

“To me it’s a blessing. Getting the opportunity to rep a city and almost set a standard in a way is very new & challenging at the same time,” says DeSousa.

“Playing in this city [Beacon] is great. Getting to go up against nationally recognized guys is great for myself and I enjoy it.” says DeSousa about coming into the city and playing against different type of players.

De Sousa showcasing his skills at perennial powerhouse South Kent School. (Photo courtesy of Malachi De Sousa)

“And my feeling coming from Beacon is simple & some of the other guys could definitely back up my point: Being from Beacon is unique, it’s not like any other place. Being from Beacon puts a huge chip on my shoulder that I carry proudly because nobody really thinks of Beacon as having serious hoppers anymore. I feel like it’s my job along with others to set the tone and remind them that we’ve still got talent just like every other place. We’ve got dudes who could hoop with top players in the country. And sure we don’t get the same media coverage as others but that’s fine. We’re good.”

He first started out at Kennedy Catholic, where he helped lead them to a CHSAA “B” city championship as a sophomore in 2015. But just as he was getting noticed around New York State, he decided to broaden his horizons by transferring to South Kent, and reclassifying into the Class of 2018.

“My time at Kennedy was good. Met lots of new people, experienced a lot I’ll never forget and made relationships I’ll never forget with past teammates.” says De Sousa about his time at Kennedy Catholic.

When asked about why he transferred to South Kent, “Better opportunity to be recruited and I wanted to prove myself on a national level and I’m liking a lot it’s been new and it took some getting use to, but I’m good now.”

Elijah Hughes during Syracuse University’s first basketball practice of the season at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse.com)

After transferring to South Kent, he played at a position that suited him, the wing, unlike at his former school, he was playing either power forward or center. He improved his stock up there and then started garnering some good offers.

But on September 3rd, he decided to make his commitment to the University of Albany, a program in the America East Conference, and finished 21-14 last season and made it to the first round of CIT Tournament under head coach Will Brown, who is now in his seventeenth season with the Great Danes.

“Just after going on my unofficial and being around the team, they were all a good group of guys who have the same goal ultimately..And after speaking with Coach Brown & the whole staff it was clear that I wanted to join their family.” says De Sousa on why committed to UAlbany.

Although he has one more year as a post-graduate at South Kent, he is excited for his future as a Great Dane. “I feel like I’ll bring versatility & another fierce competitor who will do whatever it takes to win.”

Hughes had a much longer road, playing for three high schools in four years. He first started out playing at Beacon High School. Then he transferred to Kennedy Catholic for a season, where he & De Sousa were teammates, and averaged averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists and also earned thee CHSAA Class A MVP award.

He then went on to South Kent for his senior year and averaged 16 points per game for the Cardinals. “It was hard to leave NY and go to CT, but i feel like it was one of the best decisions i’ve made in my whole life.” says Hughes, “I played along side, in my eyes, All-Americans. The biggest thing it helped me with is my confidence knowing that i can play with anyone.”

In the spring of 2015, he then decided to commit to East Carolina, a program that competes in the AAC (American Athletic Conference). In his lone season there, he averaged 7.8 points and had some good games against teams in the conference, such as Temple, SMU, USF and Cincinnati.

“It was a learning experience, learned a lot about myself and the game itself. Overall I feel like it was not a good season for me personally.” says Hughes about his time at East Carolina.

But then he decided to test himself against better competition, by transferring to Syracuse University. This year, he will have to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules, but he will have three years of eligibility remaining when he finally suits up in the 2018-19 season for the Orange.

“The coaching staff here at SU just felt I’d fit right in perfectly in there style of plan and I did as well. The school has a history of producing great NBA combo/scoring guards and that’s what I envision myself as,” says Hughes about transferring to a powerhouse like Syracuse. “I felt connected with the coaching staff and knew a lot of the players coming in. The redshirt year should be a fun test for me. I’m just going to continue to work on my body and keep getting better so by this time next year I will be ready and get thrown in the fire. So it will be a tough challenge but it will be worth it.”

Another person from the community of Beacon that has represented the town well is Shayla Diaz, who played collegiately at Division III SUNY Purchase in Purchase, NY. She is the founder of the visual media outlet, Shay’z Dayz, in which she goes out  to tournaments and other events and showcases the basketball culture.

When asked about the contrast from Beacon and the city, Diaz replied, “In comparison to the environment now that I’m constantly surrounded by, which is the city, and more of an urban community, more space, more greenery, different style of basketball for sure, you don’t have any of these street ball tournaments or tournaments up there like the ones you see in the city. That’s why you see, you know, Tyrese, Malachi, Elijah south and not north. Up there, it’s not as exciting, it’s very small.”

Diaz is one of the recognizable faces in the basketball community, due to her hard work with the camera. When Shay’z Dayz is in the park, it’s always bound to be a good day. (Photo courtesy of Shayla Diaz)

When asked about how it feels to see Williams, De Sousa and Hughes represent their town so well, Diaz replied, “I mean, I feel like it’s big, because no one knows about Beacon, like now, people know more about Beacon because of its museum and it’s somewhere where tourists come up on the Metro North to come visit or hike. It’s so small.”

On Shay’z Dayz: “I mean, you see me around, it’s kind of hard to describe who I am or what I do, but I feel like it’s more of a basketball media outlet that captures not only what’s on the court, but off the court as well. The culture, from people’s personalities to things you wouldn’t see in a regular highlight reel or what people would talk about in a writeup. It’s called Shay’z Dayz because literally, they’re my days, throughout the basketball community and it’s more unique than the lenses of other people who have cameras or record things on the basketball circuit.”

With the ascension of these three young men, there’s no denying that Beacon will be a place for talent to bloom very shortly. Although the better players leave to play elsewhere, they are still bred from the town.

Next year, Hughes will get to play in the ACC, one of the most prestigious conferences in all of college sports, De Sousa will be starting out his freshman year at Albany and Williams will also be a freshman at whatever school he chooses (he is still undecided as of the time of this writing).

When you hear of the 845 area code, and the city of Beacon, the question now will be, “Who is the next great prospect to come from that town?” Only time will tell.

Highlights of Malachi De Sousa, Tyrese Williams and Elijah Hughes:

Courtesy of Brass City Films.

Courtesy of JK Films.

Courtesy of JK Films.

Courtesy of HS Box Scores NYC, LLC.

Courtesy of Courtside Films.

Courtesy of News 12 Varsity.

Courtesy of Timothy Gantner.

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